The United School District adopted its phased reopening health and safety plan during a special board meeting Tuesday, looking toward a total reopening for in-person instruction this fall with a series of guidelines in place.
Directors on a 9-0 vote adopted the plan, which outlines the steps the district will take as it navigates a new school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan provides guidelines the district will follow in both the yellow and green phases of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to reopen the state, with measures in place for sanitation, social distancing, and monitoring student and staff health.
Under the district’s plan that was approved Tuesday, in both phases, masks would have been encouraged but optional for staff and students. However, with the Wolf administration’s mandate issued Wednesday expanding its indoor mask order, Superintendent Barbara Parkins said in an email this morning that the district’s pandemic crisis response team “will need to meet again to make the revisions to our plan now that the new mandate has been issued.” Parkins added that they also will periodically need to make necessary updates to the plan “as things continue to change.”
The original plan states, “Extended usage of masks often leads to discomfort, distraction or mishandling/misuse, triggering a child to touch his/her face more frequently and causing contamination and/or rendering the mask ineffective. Masks also make it difficult to speak or ask questions in a classroom setting.
“However, students and staff will have masks with them at all times in the event that their use is required,” such as if someone becomes symptomatic or if the minimum social distancing can’t be maintained.
In the current phase, school buses will operate with two students per seat. Bus drivers will be required to wear face shields and/or masks when students enter and exit the bus, and may choose to wear a mask at all times when students are present, unless prohibited by the bus company or school entity policy.
Normal educational procedures and small group work may occur.
Communal spaces will be used by all students while following CDC guidelines with increased attention to hand-washing/sanitizing and individual contact. The district also will maximize the use of outdoor space when possible for learning, exercising and socializing while practicing social distancing.
Classrooms will be arranged in rows and tables to the maximum extent possible to ensure students are 3 to 6 feet apart during instruction.
Cafeteria use will be sufficient, following the World Health Organization-recommended spacing when possible and a maximum capacity of 250 people, and utilizing disposable trays, condiments and plasticware.
For sporting activities, recess and physical education classes, gatherings of no more than 250 people will be allowed. Contact sports and normal practices will be permitted. Temperature screenings will be conducted. Participants must maintain social distancing when possible, and recording of team attendance will be required. There will be no use of the playground, and for phys ed classes, contact sports will be limited the health curriculum used when possible.
Students may attend before-school care at the district, when feasible, and may attend Evergreen After School Club when possible.
The district will utilize the expertise of its school nurses to oversee the monitoring of student and staff health. Those who are showing signs of illness are to report to their school nurse for triage.
If a student or staff member becomes ill or has been exposed to COVID-19, they will be permitted to return to the building as per the Department of Health guidelines. If the district has a confirmed case of COVID-19, letters will be sent home immediately to students’ families and staff will be notified.
While the district is planning a total reopening, students and families may opt for remote learning out of health and safety concerns, and the district has developed blended or distance learning options for those situations.
Cleaning, sanitation and disinfecting along with ventilation protocols and procedures have been established and will be followed by district custodial staff. Daily COVID-19 protocols will be in place to increase cleaning and disinfection of high-traffic and common areas used throughout the district.
If the county should revert to the yellow phase, a blended learning model would be implemented as well as 6-foot separation. Students will be exposed to a minimal amount of staff, who will rotate into classrooms instead of students changing classes throughout the day. Students also would eat lunch in their classrooms.
No group work will take place, and there will be a maximum of 25 people allowed in a classroom.
There would be limited or staggered access to hallways and communal spaces would be limited to 25 people.
No assemblies or events above the 25-person maximum will be allowed; visitors would be restricted to lobby and not permitted to travel through the buildings.
For sports and recess activities, only non-contact sports would be allowed, with modified practices.
On school buses, students will be required to sit one student per seat. Additional bus routes also may be implemented.
Communal spaces will be limited to 25 people maximum with increased attention to hand-washing, face masks if appropriate and no physical contact.
All staff will be trained on social distancing and safety protocols, as well as on protocols for monitoring students and their own health, before the school year begins for students.
The complete reopening health and safety plan can be viewed on the district’s website, www.unitedsd.net, under the COVID-19 Resources tab.